Alva James-Johnson: There's a silver lining to every storm

ajjohnson@ledger-enquirer.comApril 24, 2014 

Alva James-Johnson

The sun is finally shining and not just in a literal sense. The economy also seems to be making a comeback.

According to recent headlines, home sales are picking up, the unemployment rate is dropping and Synovus has rebounded with multi-million dollar profits.

It's been a long time coming, but I'm actually beginning to feel a little optimistic about the future. (Pollsters at Gallup should have asked my opinion before declaring Columbus the seventh most miserable city in the United States. But that's another story.)

My current outlook is in stark contrast to my mood five years ago when I was laid off from my job as a reporter in Florida.

Like hundreds of newspaper employees in the Sunshine State, I suddenly found myself out in the cold due to a declining industry trampled by the Great Recession. Unemployment hit double digits and foreclosure signs were ubiquitous. It was the perfect storm in a state where hurricanes prevailed.

My family and I survived the economic downturn because of family support, faith and old-fashioned frugality. We ate out less, carpooled more and postponed a few home-improvement projects. My husband and I also got creative. Instead of sitting around licking our wounds, we started a tutoring business to supplement our income. We even rented an ice cream truck and drove around town marketing our business with free ice cream. (Our children loved that part.) Through a federal grant, we provided about 40 children with free tutoring. And for the first time in my working career, I was able to step outside of my role as a journalist and actually witness the difficulties many school-aged children face. I also experienced the maddening bureaucracy that stifles our educational system. (That, too, is another story.)

So there were some advantages to being laid off. I gained a new perspective on life and learned that there's truly a silver lining to every storm. But even with disguised blessings, it takes a little while to get over the insecurity you feel when the whole world shifts around you.

I'm still careful with spending, and I try to plan better for the future. I also realize that there are still too many people who are homeless, living in poverty and unemployed. Such problems seem to persist regardless of the state of the economy, and as a community, we have to find solutions to make Columbus a better place to live.

So as the economy improves, I proceed with caution, knowing that we have a long way to go and there are no guarantees, no matter the circumstances.

But, for now, the sun feels good after so many cloudy days.

Alva James-Johnson, reporter, ajjohnson@ledger-enquirer.com.

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